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Virginia Tech at Notre Dame Keys to the Game and Prediction

Sean Pedulla 1 VT Clemson 2024 From VT
Photo Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

After having a full week between games, Virginia Tech returns to action today on the road at a struggling Notre Dame desperate to end a seven-game losing streak. This is very much a must-win game for Virginia Tech's NCAA Tournament at-large bid hopes, not because this would be a quality win but because a loss would take away one of the strengths of VT's resume: no Q3 or Q4 losses.

So with that said, here are my keys to the game for the Hokies against the Fighting Irish.

1. Protect the Basketball

When things have gone wrong for Virginia Tech, it's centered around turnovers for the Hokies whether over the course of the entire game or in critical moments that have flipped the game against them.

Take last Saturday's game against Miami when the Hokies were in control of the game for the middle 20 minutes yet stumbled down the stretch due largely to turnovers. That included a pair of lazy turnovers that turned into four quick points for Miami that helped the Hurricanes swing the outcome in their favor.

Notre Dame is one of the worst teams in the country at forcing turnovers ranking in the bottom 50 in the country in opponents' turnovers per game and 282nd per game in steals per game. On paper, this game is absolutely a get-right opportunity for the Hokies before they take on a Florida State team that gave them plenty of issues when they faced off in Tallahassee earlier this season.

Sean Pedulla has struggled mightily this season with turnovers averaging 3.7 per game, including 4.6 per game just in conference play. While Pedulla is far from the only reason for Tech's turnover issues, he's been central to it trying to force things way too often at times. Some of that is just Pedulla's game that you have to live with, but some of that can absolutely be fixed and needs to if the Hokies want to get things on track.

Collectively, Tech has started to clean their mistakes up recently, with this being a great chance to build on that after having a week off to rest up, but also possibly pick up some rust.

If Tech is going to do what they need to at Notre Dame, they have to minimize the turnovers that have plagued them too much this season.

2. Take Advantage of Notre Dame Mistakes

The fact is that Notre Dame is in the midst of a major rebuild and has a very young team this season which is why the Fighting Irish rank 45th in the country in most turnovers per game averaging 13.5. Compare that with the fact that the Irish rank 356th in the country averaging only 9.6 assists per game and it's clear that this is a team with lots of offensive issues.

For the Hokies, there will be a temptation to be over-aggressive and try to make the big play given those numbers and given the fact that the Irish rank 348th in field goal percentage and 349th in free-throw attempts per game. If you're not careful, that can lull you into going for highlight reel plays thinking that a team like that won't be able to have a good day.

That's not the mindset that the Hokies can afford to have, especially on the road against an Irish team likely desperate to end their seven-game losing streak.

Tech not only needs to force plenty of turnovers, but they also need to sharpen their game in transition and seize the numerous opportunities that the Irish will give them. Tech has had some struggles at times at taking advantage of their opponents' mistakes with that being an especially big problem in their recent loss to Duke.

This game gives Tech a great opportunity to clean up their transition offense before the competition toughens up next week. If Tech wants to get the most out of this game, they'll look to improve their offense off turnovers.

3. Embracing This as a Must Win Game

Some may argue that any Q1 game that isn't Tech's trip to North Carolina next Saturday is way more important than this game but I'd argue that this is one of Tech's most important games left.

The fact is that the Hokies simply can't afford to pick up a bad loss given the current state of their resume. Yes, having no bad losses will definitely not be enough but with limited Q1 win opportunities remaining, having no bad losses to pair with another Q1 wins and improved metrics could make the difference on Selection Sunday.

Tech needs to come to South Bend not expecting an easy but seeing an opportunity to ensure that one of their resume strengths continues to be such. Tech also can't afford to coast in this game either, but needs to make sure they dominate as the matchup suggests that they should. A victory is a victory but even a small margin of victory could lead to Tech seeing some of their predictive metrics weaken.

So yeah, Tech has to come out firing in this game knowing that anything other than dominance in South Bend could damage their currently small hopes of earning an at-large bid to the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 75, Notre Dame 61

I'm a big fan of Notre Dame's new head coach Micah Shrewsberry and believe he will get Notre Dame back to what they used to be at the peak of the Mike Brey era. However, this is a bad, rebuilding basketball team that has some promising young talent but also has a long ways to go.

The Hokies can't just come into this game expecting to cruise because Shrewsberry is too good of a coach to do that against. However, I think Mike Young will have his team ready to go, especially coming off back-to-back losses against Duke and Miami that the Hokies likely will feel were missed opportunities.

Tech will be in control of this game throughout led by a frontcourt mismatch in favor of Lynn Kidd. Meanwhile, Sean Pedulla will clean up the mistakes while Tech's offense fires on all cylinders on Tech's way to a dominant road victory.

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